Small Spaces Photo Credit: Martin Tessler

The Prettiest Purple Condo You’ve Ever Seen

A move to inner-city Calgary has one couple embracing a smaller footprint—and lots of colour.

On a warm evening a couple of summers ago, Sandy and Larry Martin went out for ice cream and came home with a plan that would radically change the way they live. Admittedly impetuous, and as energetic as a pair of teenagers, the 60-something couple had been perfectly content in the large, deep-southwest Calgary house where they’d raised their kids and lived for decades. That is, until a trip to My Favorite Ice Cream Shoppe in Calgary’s Marda Loop took them “down this random street,” says Larry—and past a house that caught their eye. “It was just so…different,” he says.

paul lavoie purple condo

To be sure, not only was the house—one half of a still-under-construction duplex in Altadore—set apart from the dozens of modern infills that dominate many streets in that part of the city, it was unique on its own terms. “It just looked so sleek and clean and sophisticated—it’s got a very strong European appeal,” says Sandy. To boot, the house, constructed by David Wilson (of the home building company Envy) and his crew, was energy efficient—concrete structure, solar panels, a rainwater collection system—in ways the Martins had never thought would matter to them. And it was more than 2,000 square feet smaller—and, at four storeys, dramatically more vertical—than the house they lived in. “It’s not the way we’ve ever lived,” says Larry. “But when we walked in, we visualized the way it could be.”

Within days, the Martins had purchased the duplex and begun a year-long adventure in renovating a brand-new house that was very nearly, but not quite, perfect for them. The first thing the couple did was call on designer Paul Lavoie, with whom they’d long had a happy and imaginative designer-client relationship, to help them open up some of the (typically European) compartmentalized spaces and move the master bedroom from the main floor to a loft two storeys up. As well, Lavoie helped them add several built-ins and hidden storage spaces, and designed an entire sliding wall that stealthily conceals the living room’s TV and bar when the Martins want time out from the more obvious entertainment options. As Larry cheerfully puts it, “The duplex was 90 percent done, and Paul and Sandy finished it to 150 percent.”

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